Canada's Olympic short-track rookies Boutin, Girard ready to reign
Veteran power couple St-Gelais, Hamelin bow out gracefully in Pyeongchang
After overcoming online abuse to capture her second bronze medal of the Olympics in Pyeongchang, Kim Boutin was embraced by veteran short-track speed skater Marianne St-Gelais on the sidelines.
The moment of celebration following the women's 1,500-metre final also signalled a changing of the guard for Canada's short-track team, which has been ruled by power couple St-Gelais and Charles Hamelin for nearly a decade.
On the same day, Hamelin echoed his girlfriend by leaping over the boards with open arms to congratulate Olympic rookie Samuel Girard's golden performance in the men's 1,000.
Boutin and Girard certainly showed that all is well for Canada's short-track future as Hamelin and St-Gelais approach the end of their storied careers.
Ups and downs
In a discipline where inches can mean the difference between triumph and heartbreak, Boutin experienced a measure of both these Games.
Before making history as the first Canadian to earn a medal in each of the three individual distances at the same Olympics, the 23-year-old from Sherbrooke, Que., faced death threats from irate South Korean fans.
Boutin's first Olympic medal came in the women's 500 on Feb. 13 after Korean favourite Choi Min-jeong, who finished second, was disqualified for interference — bumping the Canadian up from fourth to third and incurring the wrath of disappointed supporters online.
After a tearful — and likely cathartic — medal ceremony, Boutin skated to her second bronze only four days later in the 1,500, and then followed that up with a silver finish to her Games in the 1,000 on Day 13.
She completed her ascension by serving as flag-bearer for Team Canada at the closing ceremony.
While Boutin's Games were punctuated with success, St-Gelais leaves empty-handed for the first time in the three Olympics in which she has competed, beginning with Vancouver in 2010.
The 28-year-old from St-Felicien, Que., was plagued by penalties throughout and failed to reach a single individual final. It was a stark contrast from her previous Olympic experiences, which include relay silver in Sochi and double silver in Vancouver.
In another painful first, Canada was penalized in the women's 3,000 relay and didn't medal in the event for the first time since it was introduced in 1992.
Hamelin had similar struggles in the individual races — getting a penalty in each of the distances — but still managed to cement his legacy as one of Canada's most decorated male Olympians.
A bronze in the men's 5,000 relay gave the 33-year-old of Saint-Julie, Que., his only medal at these Games — bringing his total to five in his four Olympic appearances.
Passing the torch
Despite the record-tying bronze, a competitor like Hamelin was likely disappointed with his showing. But like Boutin, Girard rose to the challenge when his counterparts fumbled.
The 21-year-old from Ferland-et-Boilleau, Que., reached each individual final and his single gold took the sting out of fourth-place finishes in both the 500 and 1,500. He became the first North American to win the 1,000 and joined Hamelin on the relay podium.
If nothing else, Girard will be primed to chase Hamelin's five-medal record in Beijing four years from now. Hamelin had a similar Olympic debut at Turin 2006, also racing to two fourth-place individual results and a relay silver before rising to prominence in 2010.
Girard's gold and team bronze signal that he's ahead of schedule and could even overshadow Hamelin in the years to come.